On our first day, we saw many of the typical birds of Svalbard. There really aren’t that many — one passerine (snow bunting), one typical goose (barnacle), two typical gulls (glaucous and ivory), Arctic Tern.
We crept down to photograph arctic terns nesting in a marsh area, quite close to the town of Longyearbyun, out by the dog (husky) kennels. We liked this one:
We stayed quiet for a bit, and the bird left us alone. We took some photos, communed with the terns, inhaled the cleanest air anyone will ever experience again on this earth. Inched a little closer to the nest. A warning from the tern. A little closer.
Patience gone, about six of them started coming at us, shrieking.
I started laughing.
Finch: “They’re fun, aren’t they?”
Me: “Until someone loses an eye.”
Finch: “Don’t worry, they don’t go for your face, just the top of your head.”
This time, they wouldn’t let up, coming closer and closer, Finch fending them off while he continued to take shots of the nesting tern.
“Crap,” he said. Literally.
He brushed off his trousers and we both stood up. “I think we’ve pushed them far enough,” he said. “You don’t want them so distressed they leave their eggs.”
Walking away, I looked at him in horror. There was a huge gash on his forehead, bleeding. I bleated something, then looked closer. It was just crap from the tern, dark pink from the krill they eat. I wiped it off. “I really thought you were just really butch about being pecked to the point of bleeding.”